In the UK, many pharmacies sell e-cigarettes, with various health organisations recommending vaping as a stop smoking tool. However, in the USA attitudes can vary and one pharmacy chain has taken drastic measures. 

Rite Aid pharmacy stops selling vaping products

US pharmacy giant, Rite Aid has recently stopped selling vaping products in its stores. Rite Aid is one of the largest pharmaceutical chains in the USA with over 2,500 stores. The business sells various products from groceries to toiletries and notably, cigarettes.

The organisation has decided to remove e-cigarettes from its shelves because of scare stories that claim youth vaping is an epidemic in the States. Bryan Everett, Rite Aid Chief Operating Officer said:

“We’re concerned about some of the alarming statistics regarding the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products by children and teens.”

Everett did acknowledge the benefits of e-cigarettes as he said:

“While many feel [e-cigarettes] are beneficial to those of legal age who are trying to quit the use of tobacco, we have made the decision to remove all electronic cigarettes and vaping products from our offering at all Rite Aid stores”

Rite Aid pharmacy to continue to sell cigarettes

Incredibly, despite removing vaping products from its stores, Rite Aid will continue to sell traditional tobacco cigarettes. According to its website, “Rite Aid pharmacy offers products and services to help you lead a healthy, happy life.”

This company is willing to sell products which are known to be the leading cause of preventable death but won’t sell the products which have helped hundreds of thousands of people stop using said tobacco products. This hardly seems suggestive of a business which wants you to ‘lead a healthy, happy life’.

Pharmacies are one of the most important outlets to sell e-cigarettes. With trained pharmacists, shoppers can be given stop smoking advice and support as well as suitable products. It also supports e-cigarettes’ position as a less harmful alternative to smoking.

The claim that the choice to stop selling vaping products was made because of youth uptake of vaping doesn’t make much sense. A place that sells cigarettes, of course, has suitable age restrictions in place for its various products. Rite Aid could simply not sell vaping products to minors to avoid this issue.

Whilst this move from Rite Aid is concerning, the situation is a little brighter over here in the UK. Many pharmacies sell e-cigarettes, endorse their use, and work with local reputable vape stores for the best results.

Pharmacies in the UK support vaping

Attitudes towards vaping in the UK differ vastly to those seen in the USA. Public health organisations like Public Health England (PHE) actively endorse e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid. In a 2018 PHE report suggested that e-cigarettes should be made available in hospital shops among other pro-active initiatives.

Since then, numerous Stop Smoking Services and pharmacies have adopted, and endorse, e-cigarettes as a stop smoking tool. Totally Wicked works with many local councils and health services to help vaping reach its potential as a cessation aid.

Totally Wicked provides not only the relevant products but also firm advice, information and training. This is pivotal in helping pharmacists understand e-cigarettes and should, therefore mean they are more invested in them.

Louise Ross, clinical consultant, National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) said to The Pharmaceutical Journal:

“Pharmacists are in a unique position to encourage smokers to quit. Some will already be commissioned to provide a stop smoking service; and as noted in ASH’s report ‘A Changing Landscape’, services should encourage smokers to use e-cigarette as a stop smoking aid. Pharmacists have the chance to influence smokers when conducting medicines use reviews or when they have the opportunity to give brief advice to clients when dispensing medicines.

These opportunities shouldn’t go to waste. Telling a smoker to stop may well provoke a response of weary agreement that, “yes, I should, but I’ve tried everything and nothing works”. However, confident advice from a pharmacist about the use of e-cigarettes could make another ex-smoker.”

Chris Green, Totally Wicked smoking cessation lead was asked ‘should pharmacies sell e-cigarettes? He said:

“It makes sense that in the UK, pharmacies sell e-cigarettes. Pharmacies are being commissioned to provide stop smoking support, so with e-cigarettes now being recognised as the UK’s most popular quitting aid, the decision to stock them seems like an obvious one.

A pharmacy is a place associated with trust and reliability. By selling e-cigarettes in such a place it should help to give potential vapers the reassurance they need to make the switch, rather than being misled by the scare stories which are unfortunately so prevalent in our industry.”

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